Cannabis evidence 'was distorted'

By Doublefields · Oct 29, 2009 · ·
  1. Doublefields
    The row over the reclassification of cannabis has been reignited after the government's chief drug adviser accused ministers of "distorting" the evidence.
    Professor David Nutt, who heads the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, says it does not cause major health problems.
    He accused ex-home secretary Jacqui Smith, who reclassified the drug, of "devaluing" scientific research.
    The Home Office said these opinions "do not reflect the views of government".
    A spokesman said: "Prof Nutt's views are his own."
    He added: "The government is clear: we are determined to crack down on all illegal substances and minimise their harm to health and society as a whole."
    It comes after Prof Nutt used a lecture at King's College in London and briefing paper to attack what he called the "artificial" separation of alcohol and tobacco from other, illegal, drugs.
    Precautionary measure
    The professor said smoking cannabis created only a "relatively small risk" of psychotic illness, and claimed those who advocated moving ecstasy into Class B from Class A had "won the intellectual argument".
    Public concern over the links between high-strength cannabis, known as skunk, and mental illness led the government to reclassify cannabis to Class B from C last year.
    The decision was taken despite official advisers recommending against the change.
    Ministers said they wanted to make the move as a precautionary measure.
    The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) review of cannabis classification, which was ordered in 2007, was the result of a "skunk scare", according to the professor.
    In his lecture and briefing paper, entitled Estimating Drug Harms: A Risky Business?, he repeated his claim that the risks of taking ecstasy are no worse than riding a horse.
    Prof Nutt also warned that the reclassification decision may lead to more people taking the drug.
    "It may be that if you move a drug up a class it has a greater cachet" he said, adding the government's approach "starts to distort the value of evidence".

    He cited research which "estimates that, to prevent one episode of schizophrenia, we would need to stop about 5,000 men aged 20 to 25 years from ever using the drug".
    He said skunk has been in wide usage for about 10 years but, he claims, there has been no upswing in schizophrenia.
    The professor accepts cannabis can sometimes cause mental illness, but argues it is safer than tobacco and alcohol and, overall, does not lead to major health problems.
    Prof Nutt said: "We have to accept young people like to experiment - with drugs and other potentially harmful activities - and what we should be doing in all of this is to protect them from harm at this stage of their lives.
    "We therefore have to provide more accurate and credible information. If you think that scaring kids will stop them using, you are probably wrong."
    Following these comments, a spokesman for the ACMD said: "The lecture Prof Nutt gave at King's College was in his academic capacity and was not in his role as chair of the ACMD.
    "We acknowledge that the lecture has prompted further debate on the harms of drugs."

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  1. Doublefields
    This is ridiculous. This is the same man who last year argued (with statistical evidence) that riding a horse is more dangerous than ecstasy and the government basically said the same thing that 'these are his own views and nothing to do with us'
    But he is the head of the council that advises the government on drugs! This is just more proof (like we needed any more) that the government will not even listen to scientific evidence about drugs if it contradicts their own 'everything is bad for you' standpoint.

    (First time posting in the news section so apologies if it is set out wrong)
  2. ianp
    i read this myself it seems there's more and more people coming forward to support the de-classification of cannabis these days but will government listen ?
  3. corvardus
    Nutt was talking in his academic capacity rather than his advisory capacity. Whilst his opinions still do have weight they were not made with the concensus with the entire ACMD, and therein lies the problem.

    The problem is the Home Office is hardly going to say that "Yeah, he's right" we'll change it right away. I'm not an apologist but we need to be rational about this.

    The two problems are these: Alcohol and Tobacco.

    For those two to remain legal everything else underneath them including Cannabis, LSD and Ecstacy is required to be legal. Meaning that JWH-XXX, BZP and GBL will also be re-legalised.

    Any political entity performing U-Turns like that is going to be raped at the polls and that is the bottom line.

    This would be needed to be done carefully and correctly. An overhaul of the ABC classification system is required and urgently. The government can and might do what they did in 1997 with the Bank of England and Interest Rates.

    Placing the important task in a body specifically set up to rationally manage the membership of the Misuse of Drugs Act/Regulations is the only realistic way to go. Releasing the issue from politicians into those of the scientists, doctors and statisticians where it belongs.

    Nutt informed the government it was time for a debate and he has provided one, probably sooner than they liked. From what I have seen the public is on the side of the professor. They are well and truly desensitised to government propaganda on any issue these days so it is just as well he has brought it out into the open before the next election.
  4. Doublefields
    I agree with everything you wrote corvadus. I wrote that earlier when tired and a little angry after reading it so you've been far more rational than myself.

    This is of course true but that's what makes it so frustrating that seemingly the whole worlds drug policy is political as opposed to scientific and based on common sense.

    I've read some of the ACMD reports from the last few years where they've repeatedly said about the dangers of a number of drugs legal status not being proportionate to their impact on health and society and it appears to have been ignored. So i think it's good that Nutt is now saying some of this stuff in public, where it's being picked up on by the media and consequently by more people which as you say should bring on more pulic debating about it, perhaps before the government would like.
  5. Anna Thema
    If you want to read the full HO report by Sir Rawlings (Nutt's predecessor) Just google
    "Cannabis:Classification and Public Health Home office" and it should take you straight to it.
    Sorry I cant post direct link yet due to Newbie status (alfas site, alfas rules. thats fair enough) It's fascinating reading though, 55 pages; in printable format if you want to fell a small forest' of hyperbole, subjectivism and contradictory facts:-
    i.e Page 10-4.4 Cannabis use may have adverse effects on the reproductive system and reproduction.
    followed by 4.4.1 The effects of cannabis on fertility are uncertain.
    That is straightforward contradictory scare tactics.

    I'm happy that Professor Nutt has raised the debate again BUT the public perception will simply be that cannabis, ecstasy and LSD are all Satans triplets because he mentions them in the same breath.
    While being interviewed on the BBC this very morning he said that there is no evidence that cannabis use can increase the likelihood of the onset of Schizophrenia and then in the next sentance said that LSD was less harmful than alcohol because "one young person today will die of alcohol poisoning and no young people would die from the effects of LSD"
    NOW whilst I may be more than happy to accept these statements as fact I live in the real world and understand that the public perception is that all illegal drugs are bad, simple as...If there is to be any movement on the public perception of cannabis I feel that a more subtle approach is necessary.
    In the UK the first and most fundamental step would be to recognise and legalise the positive affects of cannabis for medicinal uses i.e appetite stimulation in cancer patients on chemotherapy, tremor and pain relief for MS suffers and the lessening of intraocular pressure in Glaucoma patients.
    Quickly moving on to the issue of recreational use after that.
    The actuality of raising the classification of cannabis from a class C to class B drug was opposed by 56% of the ACMD but it still went through and when you (or we) are faced with that sort of nonsensical behaviour its banging your head against a wall time.

    Also; am I the only one who wishes the poor bloke had any other name than 'Nutt'-it does seem to be an ironic gift to the Tabloids.
  6. adzket
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